The Goose Has Landed

Goose Fever is breaking out all over town. That’s Tampa, baby, where the Goose is a special coaching assistant with the New York Yankees. Goose today said mainly he is working the wonderful world of PFP, or pitchers fielding practice. Gives duck and cover a whole new meaning.
Goose Gossage is not your average bear. His Baseball Hall of Fame election this year has focused a lot of eyes on him again. Reputation as the ultimate wild man aside, the Goose is a highly personable guy. Speaking with him last year at Petco Park was a treat.

Former Padres reliever — also longtime New York Yankee and Chicago White Sox player — Goose Gossage was in the house, make no mistake about it. With an entourage of publicity people forming an intimidating, if fashionable, posse, he threw out the first pitch and plugged a credit card.

But the Goose was talking baseball, a lot of it, and didn’t lose any sleep, he said, over narrowly missing selection to the Hall of Fame at that times, August 2007. Besides, “I really didn’t want it for myself,” he said. “The disappointment was not going in while my mother was alive and could see it.”

Residing at Colorado Springs, Gossage has fond memories of North County San Diego. “Aw man, I stumbled out of the old Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, a few late nights,” he said with a gleam in his eyes. “I love going to Jake’s Del Mar. I just played at Morgan Run in the Stan Humphries Golf Tournament. Beautiful course. I like La Costa and Torrey Pines, too. Great golf courses.”

Gossage as preaching to the choir, in this case several influential and wel-known baseball writers. He told them he never wanted to relieve at first because this was for washed-up starters back in the day. White Sox manager chuck Tanner made him do it.

“Rollie Fingers put relievers on the map,” Gossage said. “He got too uptight to be a starter so they put him in the bullpen. Back then, starters finished what they started”

Gossage said he felt saves these days with three-run leads, or just one inning pitched, was cheap. “I don’t want it to sound like sour grapes,” he added. “But I want to set the record straight.”

And Gossage wanted to make it perfectly clear he only “purposely” hit three batters during his 22-year career with nine teams spanning 1,002 games, 1,809 innings, an 124-107 record with 3`0 saves and, yes, 47 hit batsmen. “I hit a lot of them, but not on purpose,” he said, breaking into an ear-to-ear grin. “I was wild enough.”

Now, back to Tampa. Goose is — What else? — fired up. He had a nice confab with Ken Singleton, another Dan Weisman homey, actually. Singleton grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y. while Dan Weisman hailed from New Rochelle/Greenwich.

“It’s going to be a wonderful year,” Goose said. “Be careful what you wish for.”

On Lee Smith: “I don’t know how they will keep that guy out of the Hall. He led the world in saves.”

On Yankees Camp: “It’s very relaxed, same as last year with Joe Torre. I’m over on Field Three in the back fields below with PFP. Joe (Girardi) has done a really good job.”

On Joba Chamberlain: “He initiated a huge enthusiasm on the team last year. I don’t see how he can start this year when he was so valuable in the bullpen. Same as Papelbon…He threw harder (me or him)? I don’t know [smile]…It’s really going to be exciting for Yankee fans to watch him pitch. He’s got an exceptional arm and demeanor out there.”

There was more, much, much more, all pure-spun gold. Goose said his adrenaline was going so hard, his teammates were afraid to speak to him on the mound. It was natural “I might be able to get somebody out today, but I’d have to tke the rest of the month off,” said the Goose, who retired from MLB in 1994. “All I wanted to do was put on a Big League uniform one time and that one time turned into 22 years.”

Hey and what about umpires? “These umpires drive me crazy now. You just scare a guy a little, maybe throw over hs head and they kick you out of the game.” Smile!

“I scared myself sometimes,” Goose concluded, “I would not have wanted to face me. It was really frightening te way I worked myself into a frenzy hatng the hitter and stuff like that.”

See you at the Hall in July Goosearoofico…


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